Kilauea lava approaches geothermal power plant

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Lava erupting from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii has caused a nearby geothermal power plant to shut down.

Puna Geothermal Venture is a geothermal energy conversion plant on the island of Hawaii. It brings steam and hot liquid from underground wells to the surface, where the steam is directed to a turbine generator to produce electricity. A second turbine uses the first turbine's exhaust steam to generate additional electricity. Under a contract, up to 38 megawatts of power produced by the project is sold to Hawaii Electric Light Company and distributed to customers, reportedly representing about a quarter of the big island's electricity supply.

But as Kilauea erupts, lava flows are reportedly threatening the Puna plant. The majority upstream owner of project operator Puna Geothermal Venture GP, Ormat Technologies Inc., issued a press release on May 15 describing steps taken to secure the Puna facilities in accordance with its emergency response plan, including taking electricity generation offline, shutting down and protecting the geothermal wells, removing flammable materials, and cooperating with state emergency agencies. The Honolulu Civil Beat reported on May 21 that most of the plant's wells have been capped, and that lava flows have reached the plant property but so far have been held back by a natural berm.

According to Ormat's May 15 press release, its property and business interruption insurance policies include insurance coverage in the event of volcanic eruptions and earthquake in an amount of up to $100 million (combined). But the company noted that any significant physical damage to, or extended shut-down of, the Puna facilities could have an adverse impact on the power plant's electricity generation and availability, which in turn could have a material adverse impact on the company's business and results of operations.

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